"Your life is controlled by what you focus on," says Tony Robbins, public speaker, life coach, and author of Awaken the Giant Within. Experts say, and by your own experience you know, gratitude is a good place to put your focus.
Many studies have been done by positive psychology research that gratitude is consistently associated with greater happiness. The benefits of developing gratitude as part of one's character increases happiness in some very specific ways. Improved self-esteem, better physical health, better sleep, better relationships, better mental strength, and a greater ability to deal with adversity, are just a few of the benefits.
Amy Morin, a licensed clinical social worker and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Do, writes, "Gratitude increases mental strength and research has shown it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma". A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11. Focusing on gratitude, even during the worst times, fosters resilience."
In a study by the University of Kentucky, participants in a study who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less aggressive and less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They also showed more sensitivity and empathy toward other people.
There are many ways to intentionally focus on gratitude. Here are just a few to try:
- Write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness.
- Express gratitude daily to your spouse and children.
- Say "thank you" to people who work for you. Those employees will feel motivated to work harder.
- Write a thank-you note. You make yourself happier and nurture a relationship by writing a thank-you to express your appreciation for a person's impact on your life. Try and do it regularly like once a month.
- Thank someone mentally. Fred Rogers, an American children's television personality, often stopped to think about everyone who had "loved him into being."
- Write down or reflect on what went right in your day.
- Recall, with gratitude, a happy memory and write it down. Research shows that as you write it down you are, in a sense, reliving it and it brings happiness.
- Count your blessings. Put a piece of paper on your fridge and daily write down one of your blessings.
- Use prayer to cultivate gratitude. Look for the hand of God in your life each day.
- Keep a gratitude journal and share something from your journal with a loved one.
- Meditate. Be mindful of the present moment you are in. Don't think "what if", think "what is". Focus on what is happening right now--I feel the warmth of the sun on my back. I hear the birds singing. I smell the newly turned soil. I feel the breeze.
"Where focus goes--energy flows," is another motivational thought Tony Robbins teaches. When you intentionally focus on gratitude, positive, productive energy will follow.